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Reform our nation’s broken immigration system

March 22, 2010

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a longtime advocate for comprehensive and humane immigration reform, joined thousands of people from across the country for the March 21 rally on the nation’s capital to demand Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

The Task Force was an official endorser of the March for America and marched behind its banner at the event.

Immigration reform took a prominent place at the Task Force’s National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change last month in Dallas, Texas. Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, gave the opening plenary speech in which he called for comprehensive and LGBT-inclusive immigration reform.

Today, there are 12 million immigrants, including at least half a million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are forced to live in the shadows of our society.

They are people like Harold, an 18-year-old gay man who came to this country from the Philippines with his parents when he was five years old. This is really the only country he has ever known. But today, because he is undocumented, he cannot get a driver’s license, cannot get a job, cannot get a student loan, and is in constant fear of being arrested and deported to a country where he has no connections, no prospects and where he cannot speak the language.

They are people like Victoria Arellano, an undocumented transgender woman who was swept up by the immigration system, put into a detention jail where she was denied HIV medications and medical attention, even when she was vomiting blood. This cost Victoria her life. She died, chained to a hospital bed with two immigration guards at the door.
And, of course, there are at least 36,000 binational couples who cannot live together here in this country because federal law bans recognition of their relationships.

During her annual State of the LGBT Movement speech at Creating Change, Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey vowed the Task Force would continue to “stand with our allies in the immigration reform movement, come what may.”
The Task Force Action Fund is advocating for the inclusion of LGBT immigrants and their families in any comprehensive immigration reform. LGBT families run the gamut of citizenship status, including citizens by birth and naturalization, immigrants, legal permanent residents, and undocumented immigrants. There is a collective stake in making sure all of us are able to participate fully in our communities.

Among the other changes we are calling for:

  • Reform that promotes family reunification and addresses extensive backlogs in processing visas for family members living abroad of those living in the U.S.
  • Reform that ends discrimination against LGBT binational families and provides Americans in same-sex relationships the same opportunity to sponsor their partners for residency in the United States. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would allow the approximately 36,000 binational couples in the U.S. to remain together.
  • Reform that addresses the detention and deportation of immigrants so that people are not improperly racially profiled or not afforded constitutional due process protections.
  • Reform that includes labor protections so that migrant and undocumented workers are treated with dignity and respect. Expanded visa programs would assist the many immigrants who have professional worker visas and could benefit from visas in technology, science and medical sectors that are ultimately tied to access to greencards and permanent residency in the U.S.
  • Reform that includes a workable path to citizenship for those who are undocumented, including support for young people seeking higher education.
  • Reform that recognizes the unique concerns of persecuted immigrant communities, including those seeking political asylum because of homophobia and transphobia, and women and girls who are exploited through human trafficking.

If we are truly a community and a movement committed to freedom, justice and equality then reforming our nation’s cruel and broken immigration system must be on our agenda for action.

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